The holiday season is a little over five months away, but if you haven’t started planning your holiday travel, you’re already behind. To help you save, we’ll be releasing our favorite holiday tips from our founder, George Hobica and other airfare experts each day until the 25th.
Our favorite tip? Setting alerts, of course. There's not a “magic” day to score the cheapest holiday airfare, but there is a “magic” time to start planning (a.k.a. right now). Research shows that most travelers plan holiday travel after summer -- just in time for prices to skyrocket. Holiday airfares are about as predictable as the stock market, but signing up for our fare alerts ensures you get the best value. After all, your wallet deserves a little holiday magic, too.
#1 Be Flexible
The more flexible that you can be with travel times, the more luck you'll have landing a deal. You’ll find that it's cheaper to fly on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day than on peak dates usually before and after the actual holiday. If you have the flexibility to fly between holidays (or if it’s last minute and you can’t make the holiday) book your flight for days in-between major holidays, like the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
#2 Follow the Airfare Deals
Sign up for our airfare alerts. This way you're guaranteed to have the best deals delivered directly to your inbox. It’s also a great idea to sign up for airline newsletters and to follow Airfarewatchdog and airlines on Twitter and Facebook.
#3 Last Minute Seating Isn’t Always Best
Although you might pay a bit less by grabbing the last ticket close to the holidays, if you want to choose your favorite seat or preferred flight times, you're better off booking now. The most desirable flight times always sell out first, leaving only middle seats near the lavatory, red-eyes, or that dreaded 5 a.m. departure.
#4 Be Connection Smart
In general, you can save money on peak holiday travel by taking connecting flights rather than nonstop. But since winter weather can foul up connections, you may be better off splurging for the nonstop.
#5 Spend the Holidays Abroad
While fares to grandma's house may look ridiculously expensive, international fares are often quite reasonable—sometimes even in Business Class. Use the holidays to check out a far-flung place you've been meaning to visit.
#6 Go for the Package
Investigate package deals. Some air and hotel packages offer cheaper airfares than those you’ll find by searching for flights alone.
#7 Don’t Procrastinate
Don’t wait until the last minute to start hunting for deals. Make sure you have airfare alerts setup in advance to avoid missing out on any possible airfare deals or promos.
#8 Do Your Research
Compare different websites, but if you find an incredible deal, don’t wait to book it.
#9 Make It a Combo
When shopping, don’t be afraid to combine one-way fares for cheaper prices. Sometimes many legacy airlines will copy JetBlue or Southwest, at the same or lower price. You can mix and match—fly in on JetBlue and depart on Delta. It also gives you more flexibility with times. (Prom)
#10 Weigh the Alternatives
Consider driving to an alternative airport for a better deal or more desirable itinerary. If you live near multiple airports or are arriving at a city with multiple airports, check your route for all airport options. You might be able to snag a deal that way.
#11 Be a Line Skipper
Sign up for TSA PreCheck so you can avoid long security lines. You’ll be able to make it through security without having to remove your shoes or laptop. You can also buy priority privileges for some airlines too.
#12 Check Your Credit Card
Check your credit card to see what kind of travel perks you might have. Many cards will give you travel insurance if you purchase your flight with the card. Some cards will even let you avoid baggage fees. It’s worth a quick check before you book your flight. You can compare travel reward cards.